State of the BPM Nation

21 May 2007

java jboss opensource

Tom Baeyens has written a nice blog introduction to a technical article on the Process Virtual Machine.

state.pngTom's blog is great, because it gives you an understanding of the problems and commonalities between various process/workflow/orchestration technologies. I faffed about with Werkflow though a few revisions, all failing miserably.

I think workflow (and rules) will ultimately be important programming models in the future. While developers may find it hard to transition from imperative to declarative thinking, both of these technologies map more closely to how Real Humans tend to think about problems. This is evidenced by the "flow charts" that match the shape of a business process. We're better at drawing pictures than describing with words the steps involved in taking a thing through a process.

Trip Report: JavaOne 2007

15 May 2007

community day-job events java jboss jbossorg social

I got back from my first ever JavaOne, and I'd have to say it was a success.

First the obligatory "look how cool I am" section...

Name dropping


Drank too much with Hani of the BileBlog. Congratulated Cameron John Purdy at the Tangosol party. Finally met Phil Dodds and Brett Porter, from DevZuz. Dan Diephouse and Paul R. Brown ("Yes, we're the XFire guys") had candy at their booth. Jason Hunter handed me an invite to the Google party, where I finally met Crazy Bob Lee (one of the damn nicest people ever). There I chatted with Ola Bini who is a man who makes me feel short. Re-met Jon Tirsen after a 3-year hiatus (the first hausparty in Amsterdam). Paul Hammant expounded on Mingle and other things over bowls of curry. Chatted with Matt Quail and Pete Moore of Cenqua a bit while absconding with Google t-shirts. Chatted with Matthew Porter of Contegix, the hosting providers of the Codehaus. Stood around (in my JBoss shirt) in front of the IBM booth chatting with Lauren Cooney. Met Guillaume LaForge and Graeme Rocher finally. Put some faces with the Exadel guys I'd worked with during the opensourcing of their products. Greg Wilkins reminded me the Codehaus SSL cert was expired (fixed now). Geert Bevin was as enthusiastic as ever at the TerraCotta booth. Ran into Jeremy Boynes in the lobby of the W on my way out of town. Jason van Zyl wandered the streets of San Francisco with me in search of a 7-11 and an ATM. Alex Vasseur dropped by the JBoss party to discuss event stream processing. James Strachan and Rob Davis were everywhere, of course.


Did some podcast recording with Tom Baeyens, Emmanuel Bernard, Bill Burke and Gavin King. Chatted with Thomas Diesler, Michael Yuan, Matt Quinlan, and Sacha Labourey. Enjoyed dinner with James Cobb, Mark Newton and Bela Ban. Damon Sicore, my predecessor, dropped by the JBoss party. Met innumerable coworkers whos names all fail me during my stints in or near the JBoss booth.

The fabulous Cindy Scheneck, Rebecca Goldstein and Chantal Yang arranged the booth, the party, the printing of the t-shirts and everything else that made it all awesome. Mad props to that trio, Burr Sutter, and the gaggle of sales-engineers who did an awesome job with the attendees.


With the large investment announced by Interface21, a lot of side-line analysis of business models was happening. Exactly where is the sweet spot of professional opensource? Is it training? Certifying a stack that you control? Supporting a stack that you don't? Purely professional services?

At the booth, technical demos seemed well received. A large screen and a good sound-system were definitely a wise investment. Every demo drew a large crowd around the booth. A lucky few got to see Gavin debug a demo live on stage. Seam is definitely hot this year.

Luckier still are those who "received" a "free" copy of Michael Yuan's book about Seam. Did I mention Seam is apparently hot?

We all need to realize that parties can occur on nights other than Wednesday. Luckily the JBoss->Eclipse->Google triathlon worked out, but many parties were concurrently scheduled.

I heard a lot of positive feedback from people I met about liking what we're doing at They like the new look and layout. When it's common for people to throw around criticism and negativity, it's really nice to hear kind words. Sure, we've still got a long way to go, I'll readily admit, but I think we're doing a-okay.

In general, conferences like these are somewhat educational, definition inspirational, and help cement human-to-human relationships. While we all might be competitors, we're not enemies. In the world of opensource, we share the same community, so we all might as well get along and order another round of beers. Conferences demonstrate these cross-cutting commonalities that crosses P statements.

JBoss at JavaOne 2007

02 May 2007

community events java jboss jbossorg traveling

Picture 5.png JavaOne is next week. Would you believe this is the first JavaOne I'll ever have attended?

Some of my colleagues have put together a page detailing JBoss's participation at the conference.

Speakers from JBoss include Gavin King and Emmanuel Bernard, Michael Yuan, Tom Baeyens and many others.

I'll be hanging out at Booth #1418 along with James and Mark from my team. We'll also be wandering the halls talking to anyone who looks like they need some opensource Java love.

Wednesday night, there's going to be a party at the Metreon. You'll need to go register.

Trip Report: TSSJS Vegas

24 March 2007

business community events jboss opensource traveling

tssjs_bob.jpg Just got back from Vegas, where I participated on a panel about opensource and business at TheServerSide Java Symposium. It involved five of us from businesses that were related to opensource in some form. It did not include Geir Magnusson, who apparently had better things to do.

Questions that Joe Ottinger and the audience threw at us ran the gamut from business strategy to licensing minutia. On the topic of how each contributes back to the community, JBoss, Interface21, and Liferay obviously employ developers, while SpikeSource primarily upstreams improvements, since they are basically just expert community members.

tssjs_dan.jpg I think an audience member brought up the idea of the company "holding documentation hostage" for paying customers. Most everyone agreed that ultimately it depends on what you view your business as. If a company holds its docs hostage, someone else will ultimately create some competing docs. It might be the community. It could be a book publisher, who is an expert in creating fantastic docs and holding them hostage until you pay the cover price. That's how O'Reilly, APress, Manning and other companies participate in opensource.

One audience question involved how to define success in an opensource company. Once again, we all seemed to violently agree that success is defined just as for any other company. Profit! It's a dirty but true secret. Companies try to make profits. Opensource is just a method of software development, not a complete business model.

tssjs_dion.jpg The issue of trademarks did arise. I'm not going to poke the bear here, but company counsel has replied on some of the other blogs out there.

On a different note, I finally got to meet Hani Suleiman, Ross Mason and Mike Cannon-Brookes in person. I ran into Dan Diephouse, Dion Almaer, Jonas Bon and Geert Bevin again.

Only lost $90 on the slots between me and my wife.

JBoss Blogging

16 March 2007

blogging community jboss

James Governor of RedMonk had a less-than-flattering comment about how JBoss blogs.
I think part of the problem is that a lot of interesting JBoss blogging occurs at places other than Basically, you simply have to look further than For example, the JBoss Rules team blogs hellagood over at the JBoss Rules Blog. The Hibernate/Seam guys are blogging on the Hibernate Blog. Many other individual JBoss folks blog on their own personal blogs. So I don't think it's so much that JBoss bloggers are boring and corporate. Instead, I think it's more a problem of not pulling all of this interesting content back in a single easy-to-find place. Yes, indeed, I'll allow you to argue that it shouldn't require you to look so hard. I do realize that folks view as "the voice of JBoss" but in reality, no single voice exists. A lot of the voices do use, but many do not. My team is ultimately working to help bring all of this interesting activity into a single place. That'll make it easier to see it all. Hooray for RSS. As far as blogging about "projects" instead of "issues" goes, I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. An "issue" is ultimately just a choice that has to be made. Developers make choices all the time. He's right, we do blog a lot of announcements, which summarizes the results of choices that were made and issues that were dealt with. Perhaps we could blog more about choices before and during those critical points. Then we'd be blogging about "issues" instead of just results. It would be better to blog things as the occur, instead of after-the-fact. It would certainly help increase the community involvement. Plus, the blog would read as more of a narrative. And everyone likes a good story. Particularly if it has drama, anguish, hope, crisis and resolution. Like a day in a developer's life, ultimately.

Parasitic Community Growth

13 March 2007

community jboss jbossorg opensource

tick.jpgSure, you see the word "parasitic" and the first thing that pops to mind is probably "ewww."

But parasitic behavior is actually a good strategy for new communities, as long as they don't ultimately kill their host.

Last night Rysiek pinged me about some thoughts on how to improve JBoss Portal, by allowing the core team to work on the core portal, and perhaps have another team that focuses on just writing portlets. He pointed me to a nice wishlist of portlets that would be great to have.

We could certainly put some labor into it, but that wouldn't help leverage our community.

He and I conversationally strolled around the problem for a while, and came up with some conclusions.

Complimentary instead of stand-alone

It's hard enough getting someone to build some software you want. Finding a guy who wants to build it, and build it as a portlet is even harder. Instead, perhaps take a strategy of "portalizing" existing non-portal applications.

The thing is it's hard to start a community from scratch with a brand new project. You might have a large potential community, but you initially have 0 adopters and no easy way to convince people to try your stuff.

If you create complimentary projects that add value to an existing community, the road is much easier. These folks are easier to find and more receptive, since you've come to them with a solution that fits their current environment, instead of convincing them your project solves a problem they didn't even know they had.

For example, everyone loves the various JIRA macros in Confluence. That's somewhat portlet-like. In fact, JBoss could easily write a few portlets against the JIRA API.

Glom onto an existing community

Now, we don't have to build a community from scratch. We can find the JIRA community pretty easily. Some subset of that community probably uses some portal somewhere and might enjoy a good JIRA portlet. I'm sure only a subset of those portal people use JBoss Portal at this point, though.

So, we make sure our JIRA portlets are easy to use and are compatible with all portals out there, not just JBoss. This broadens our own potential community, for one. And secondly, it actually creates pressure for eXo, Liferay, and other portals to not create their own JIRA portlets.

Plant some seeds

Now, if we throw out a small handful of JIRA portlets, let's say, which solve some of the hard problems (like the JIRA SOAP interface being "interesting" at times) and provide examples, we've made it easy for the community (the JIRA+Any-Java-Portal subset) to extend our initial seed. And a portlet-creating community grows.

After a suitable amount of time and effort giving to their community, they'll eventually turn around and give back.

Marketplaces Communities

Rysiek pointed out the existing JBoss Portlet Swap, which has quite a few things in it. But he comments that the associated forums are almost dead. JBoss Portal Swap is a marketplace where the cost of transactions is zero.

I'm not surprised, given the nature of the Portlet Swap. The actual distributables in it are quite diverse, with a single thing in common: they're portlets. The stronger side of each of these projects is the non-portlet value-add. Most of the conversation there will occur within the primary community (for example, JIRA's community, Pentaho's community). Else, they are simple and not necessarily community-invoking (for example, the calculator portlet, or the flash portlet).

Portlet Swap (and really any marketplace type of thing) has such diversity in its members, it probably won't have much of a community. It's ultimately infrastructure. As humans, we might all shop at the same mall. But I probably don't want to have a beer with you just because we've walked the same hallways and shopped at Sears.

Applicable to other realms

I've spoken in the specifics of portals, portlets and JBoss's Portlet Swap marketplace. But this can all be generalized to any project that's extensible.

ESBs come to mind initially. It's definition is that it's a core with a bajillion ways to interface with a bajillion different systems. No way the core team can implement them all. But by providing a reasonable starting point, the community is encouraged to contribute their adapters for their own weird little system. You solve most of their problem (by providing JMS connectors or whatnot), and they fill in the gap with their odd PDP-10 message-queue connector. The ESB project benefits from the nutball PDP-10 community.

Ultimately, by finding an existing community you can compliment and attach to, the easier it will be to reach your prospects and have them contribute back. You can plant some seed and provide some initial value to a group that's paying attention. With enough care and sunlight, you'll accomplish what you're trying to do.

Facing New Models

05 March 2007

java jboss opensource web-20

I applaud the recent announcement between JBoss (Red Hat) and Exadel.

JBoss, through Seam, is committed to JSF, the standard view framework for Java EE applications. The Exadel components represent a nice set of JSF-compatible chunks to help build rich applications, using AJAX and such.

To be honest, I'm still learning JSF myself.

But from a business model and community point of view, I think this initiative will play out nicely for all parties involved. A picture is worth at least a few dozen words.


Some time ago, Exadel gave the world Ajax4jsf, and released it at Today, they give the world RichFaces and Studio Pro. And we've shuffled it all over to JBoss.ORG. For JBoss, we've tapped a nice well of compatible top-shelf technology. For Exadel, they've focused on providing professional services instead of sharing their attention with product development and management.

Exadel will of course continue to participate in these projects, committing their current development staff, but ultimately they will be developed The JBoss Way.

I think we'll begin to see more moves like this. Already quite a few companies have opensourced their own products. Many times they will dump them at SourceForge. Other times they'll attempt to host them on their own. Depending on the community and opensource expertise at the company, this may or may not work. Exadel has taken a bold step by seeking a particular existing community to foster their projects in the world of opensource.

Uncle Traveling Bob

23 February 2007

day-job java jboss traveling

mattpicture8we.jpg I'm going to be in Austin, Texas all next week for the Day Job. Seems like most folks I used to know in Austin have moved to Houston or other places. If you are in Austin, and particularly if you want to buy me some beers, let me know.

I don't know the area, but it seems I'll be near the Northwest District Park.

The Metamorphosis

07 February 2007

day-job java jboss north-carolina opensource

Monday morning, I woke up to find myself transformed into a Red Hat employee.

Yes, that's right, I've joined Red Hat. More specifically, I joined JBoss, a division of Red Hat, to lead up JBoss.ORG . You may recall that a little more than a year ago, JBoss acquired the Drools business rule engine. At that time, Mark Proctor joined JBoss to lead Drools, while I wandered off to pursue other interests. In the intervening time, I followed the project of course. I was impressed with how well it functioned under the larger umbrella of JBoss. When the JBoss.ORG community-centric opportunity arose, I felt I had to finally jump aboard the good ship JBoss.

And here I am.

I join a talented team who already have a lot of cool things underway:

(You may now notice that my decision to learn Polish wasn't quite as arbitrary as it may have initially seemed.)

JBoss is of course one of the pioneers of the professional open-source model. In that, we can never forget our open-source community roots, even when vast sums of money are thrown around. Ultimately all open-source survives and grows based upon goodwill. Tending to the community is required, else you risk alienating your own users. I aim to use my experiences from a variety of open-source projects and communities to make sure the JBoss community is one of which I'm proud to be a member.

So, what exactly am I going to do?

I'm going to find our weaknesses within how we handle our community. Anything that we could be doing better. Perhaps an existing bit of the infrastructure used by projects is irritating. Perhaps we're missing some tooling that folks wished we had. Perhaps we need to help projects organize their documentation or create some tutorials.

Within a community is a continuum of participation. Our job is to remove anything that stands in the way of people moving as far along as they wish.


Once impediments are torn down, a feedback loop exists, with community members helping each other.

I'm truly excited about this opportunity to work with open-source communities full-time. Things are afoot. And let me know what you think we need to do so that we can leave you with warm and happy thoughts of JBoss at the end of the day.

Update: Here is the official press release (PDF)

Codehaus Oof Uncamp San Francisco

12 September 2006

codehaus jboss opensource web-20

It has been decided that tonight, 12 September, the Codehaus Oof Uncamp will happen at Zeitgeist, in San Francisco. It's cash-only, so bring some Benjamins. I'll buy the first round or two.

Update: 7pm is the time to collide.